Rooting hardwood cuttings can be extremely low-tech and easy to do. All types of shrubs and trees can be increased through hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are taken from fully mature plant shoots, from dormant plants with no signs of active growth, that have no leaves and do not bend easily.
The key to successful rooting is to avoid rotting. In order to root your cuttings but avoid rotting, you need sufficient moisture and humidity, good aeration, and a little patience. Using a medium such as straight vermiculite, can make the process fairly fail-proof.
Vermiculite is the geological name given to a group of hydrated laminar minerals– aluminum-iron magnesium silicates which have the appearance of mica. Horticultural vermiculite has the excellent property of improving soil aeration while retaining moisture and nutrients to feed roots, cuttings and seeds for faster, maximum growth. Horticultural vermiculite is permanent, clean, odorless, non-toxic and sterile.
Because rot is the number one enemy of successful rooting, starting with a sterile environment is important. When you take your cuttings, make sure you have a clean knife or pruners. Consider washing your pots or flats in hot soapy water and even rinsing them with a bleach solution (15 parts water to 1 part bleach). Since vermiculite is sterile, it is a good option for avoiding rot. Strong roots are formed by pushing through vermiculite, helping your plant thrive.
Take your cuttings while plants are still dormant, by cutting each stem right below a leaf node. Make the cut at a 45 degree angle, to expose a greater surface area. The new roots will form from the leaf nodes. Avoid making your cut above the leaf node because the cutting will die back to the next leaf node.
Dip your cutting end (root end) in a rooting hormone powder or gel. This is generally necessary for hardwoods that take a longer time to develop roots. The rooting hormone usually also contains a fungicide that can help discourage rotting. You can also make an all natural rooting tea from different species of willow. Read about how to make a Willow Tea here.
Place the vermiculite in your containers. Make sure that you have enough vermiculite to support your stems. Cuttings need to be planted to half of their length. Sufficiently water your vermiculite until water comes out of the bottom of the container.
Poke planting holes into the vermiculite that are wide enough for your cuttings. A clean chopstick can work well for this. If you are planting several cuttings in one container, space the holes 2-4 inches apart.
Dip the cutting end in the rooting hormone and place the cutting in the hole without rubbing the rooting hormone off.
Use the chopstick to fill in around each hole, so that the cuttings are stable and in place.
Because humidity is important, cover the cuttings with plastic, or a clear lid made for flats. I like to start my cuttings in pots that will fit a plastic grocery store produce bag over the top. Poke a little hole in the bag, to allow some airflow.
Place the cuttings in a sunny window or under grow lights in a room that stays 65-75 degrees F.
Do not allow the vermiculite to dry out. Add water once a week or whenever necessary.
Remove any cuttings that look like they are rotting or have mold. Check often.
Cuttings do not need fertilizer while they are rooting.
Don’t give up! Just when you think nothing is going to happen, they will pop out a leaf. After a few weeks, you can check one or two cuttings for roots by gently lifting them from the vermiculite. When the roots are 3 inches long, they can be replanted in potting soil. Hardening off should occur slowly by gradually exposing the new plants to less humidity and different temperatures. They are still very fragile and any drastic changes can kill them. Once plants have been come established in their new pots, a gentle fertilizer such as worm castings or sea kelp will help them become vigorous.
To find people selling hardwood cuttings or other plants in your area, visit Pick-A-Pepper.com!
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